AVP (the Alternatives to Violence Project) offers intensive 16-hour non-residential workshops, usually held over a single weekend. The content of each workshop is carefully structured, but is flexible enough to reflect the needs of the group. There is very little theoretical input, and few literacy skills are required. Learning takes place as people share experiences.
Our aim is to help people resist violence, manage strong feelings and form stronger relationships.
Each workshop is led by a team of trained facilitators, who have all attended many workshops. An important aspect of the ethos of AVP is that everyone present, including the facilitators, is a volunteer. The outcomes for clients “referred” by professionals are likely to be most successful if clients feel they have had a genuine choice about attending. Feedback from many workshops confirms that most participants really enjoy the course and find it very useful.
Participants are helped to improve their self-awareness, in order to establish a stable level of self-esteem. Communication skills are practiced, with an emphasis on good listening. People are encouraged to develop an assertive approach, which respects the views and feelings of other people while expressing their own views clearly. Attention is paid to recognising and managing anger.
Trust, Cooperation and a sense of belonging grow within the group through discussion and small group projects. There are frequent breaks and “light and lively” activities, which generate fun, an important sense of community and lots of laughter.
Towards the end of the workshop, skills are promoted which will help people to develop empathy and the ability to see the other person’s point of view in an argument. This helps to build the skills needed to work for the peaceful and constructive resolution of conflicts.
The general approach of AVP is underpinned by research findings, which confirm the following:-
• High and stable self-esteem provides the optimum form of self –perception for showing low levels of aggressive behaviour,
• Poor communication skills and low empathy levels are linked to violent behaviour,
• High levels of trust are important for cooperation within close relationships and for positive social engagement,
• Improvement in problem solving skills is effective in reducing violent behaviour.
At the end of the workshop participants are given a certificate of completion and a pack that contains a full colour manual that covers what they have learnt as well as reminder cards that can be carried in a wallet or purse with AVP concepts and lessons on.